Skip to Content

Lexapro Patient Tips

How it works

Lexapro is a brand name of escitalopram. Escitalopram is thought to increase levels of serotonin in the brain, and is used in the treatment of depression and anxiety. It belongs to a group of medications known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)


  • Used to relieve depression and anxiety in adults, and depression in teenagers aged 12 through 17.
  • Less likely to cause drowsiness than some other antidepressants.
  • Has also been used off-label for other conditions such as panic disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.
  • SSRIs in general, are better tolerated than many other medicines used in the treatment of depression.
  • May be more effective with less adverse effects than other SSRIs.


If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Insomnia or drowsiness, sexual dysfunction, nausea, increased risk of bleeding, dry mouth, and increased sweating.
  • An increased risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in young adults (similar to other antidepressants).
  • May precipitate a manic episode in people with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
  • May cause lowering of total body sodium (hyponatremia); elderly people or people taking diuretics or already dehydrated may be more at risk.
  • May impair judgement and affect ability to drive or operate machinery. Avoid alcohol.
  • May cause a discontinuation syndrome if abruptly stopped or interrupted (symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, sweating, chills, tremors, vivid dreams, and insomnia); taper off dosage slowly over several weeks to months.
  • Interaction or overdosage may cause serotonin syndrome (symptoms include mental status changes [such as agitation, hallucinations, coma, delirium]), fast heart rate, dizziness, flushing, muscle tremor or rigidity and stomach symptoms (including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea]).

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

Bottom Line

Lexapro is an effective antidepressant that may have less potential for adverse effects than some other antidepressants.


  • Take with or without food. Allow at least a week before increasing dosage under a doctors advice if needed.
  • Report to your doctor any signs of worsening of depression or suicidal thoughts particularly during the first few months of therapy. Also monitor for serotonin syndrome.
  • Do not stop suddenly as withdrawal symptoms may occur.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery if this medicine makes you drowsy or impairs your judgement. Avoid alcohol.
  • If your mood changes, depression or a worsening of depression occurs, or you experience seizures, talk with your doctor.
  • Seek urgent advice from an eye professional if eye pain, changes in vision, or swelling or redness around the eye develop.

Response and Effectiveness

  • Peak blood levels reached approximately 5 hours after a dose but it may take up to a week for levels to become stabilized in the body. An improvement in depressive or anxiety symptoms may not be noticed for 1-4 weeks. Treatment should be continued as directed even after improvement.


Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) [package insert]. Revised 10/2014 Forest Laboratories, Inc. Accessed 02/2016

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Lexapro only for the indication prescribed.

  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. This drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. It is an informational resource designed as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of this information. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2017 Revision Date: 2016-02-22 00:00:00